Monday, April 30, 2012

The Ben Report, 4/30: The Joy of Placid

Ben is placid. Placid, placid, placid. Calm, quiet, laidback, easygoing, mild-mannered, relaxed. Placid.

Which is a darn good thing because he’s going to need every scrap of placidity to retain his and my sanity for the next couple of months.

He got vet-checked on Friday, and the assessment was good: Some pitting edema and heat still present, but coming along very well. Kelly had her assistant trot him a few steps in the driveway and you could see he wasn’t right, but he wasn’t blatantly wrong.

Now, Friday was viciously windy and not very warm. There’s Ben, being led out from long confinement by someone he doesn’t know well and asked to trot into and away from biting wind. A recipe for boinking bouncing joint-stressing capering disaster, right? Ben was blase through the whole thing. “Trot? Yeh, whatever. Stop? No problem. Stand here? Fine by me.”

 So, that’s the good news. The bad news? He still has to stay imprisoned for at least another month. Oh, his out of the slammer time has increased from a few minutes’ hand-grazing while I hose his fetlock to small amounts of hand-walking. Five whole minutes per day for the first week! Up to ten next week! Woo-hoo! Continue the Previcox, continue the Surpass, continue the cold hosing. Re-vet-check in four weeks, and if all systems are still go, then we can maybe think about allowing him some turnout at last, at long last!

 Turnout: Walking him down to the run-in and closing him into one of the stalls thereof, with Commander confined in the area in front of and beside the shed so he can’t get out of Ben’s sight, thus sending the big doofus into a frenzy of abandonment terror. Turnout in there for maybe an hour at first. Because, as calm, as easygoing, as placid as he is, when he’s finally let off the lead, even if it’s only into 20 feet by 30 of freedom, he’s gonna boink. I know him, and I know it. But at least he’ll get some fresh air, some time outside the barn, some mutual grooming and face-fighting good times with his good buddy Commander.

 In the meantime, we walk. Saturday and Sunday, the wind continued biting and Ben continued calm – eager to go, to look all around, to inhale the outside air, to stare greedily at the grass, but obediently earthbound. Our exciting routine is twice around the big bank barn, pause to cold-hose and gobble grass; once or twice more around the barn, pause to hose and gobble again; back inside. I plan to increase the circuits gradually till we hit the magic ten-minute mark, then check with the vet about enlarging the time if Ben tolerates it well.

 Ben clearly enjoys these limited outings, even when he isn’t inhaling greenery. When I turn him up the slope to enter the barn he stops dead, looks mournfully at me, looks all around at the wonderful world he’s being dragged away from; I break his feet loose by turning him aside, then lead my placidly resigned horse back into captivity.

 And so it goes. Placidly.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Ben Report, 4/21

Good. Very good. Really truly very good indeed.

Over the last three days the swelling in the fetlock has gone down to minimal; the heat has reduced to mildly elevated; and Ben's weight-bearing comfort on that leg has been solid. He was turning up his nose at his bute-laced beet pulp and sweet feed mash, so we switched him to one Previcox tablet per day on the 19th. He eats it in a bit of sweet feed from my hand and is doing just fine on it.

I've been able to extend Commander's turnout to a full eight hours, from midday to around 8:00 p.m., without either of them having a meltdown over the separation. I was even able to take Commander out for a short ride along the edge of the hayfields today, yay!

Roxanne and the girls have come over on Wednesday and Friday to groom the boys, fuss over them, and stuff them with carrots, which I'm sure they both enjoyed greatly.

I expect this is still the end of Ben's career as a riding horse, but as long as he's paddock sound and happy, I'm fine with that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Ben Report, 4/18

Midday found the Benster bright-eyed, cheerful, and standing foursquare and at ease. There’s still some swelling in and above the right hind fetlock, firm and quite warm to the touch when I first checked him, but he moved without limping.

Ben got about a dozen minutes of cold hosing; I quit then because after standing patiently for it while he nibbled grass, at that point he began scrunching up his leg as if trying to get away from discomfort; it seemed smarter to stop then rather than provoke some dancing-about escape attempts. The hosing reduced the swelling, and a half-hour plus later the edema was still diminished and the area was near-normal cool.

Ben was so calm I took a chance and put Commander outside while I cleaned his stall. Other than screeching when he saw his buddy taken out, Ben stayed reasonably relaxed for that, at least while I was in the barn mucking. He got upset again when I left the barn to bring Cholla and Counterpoint their grain, so I brought Commander back in then rather than leave him out and risk sending the Benster into a meltdown.

Ben’s temperature was normal, his appetite was good (though he was a bit dubious at first about his bute-laced mash; but he did eat it), and he got his Surpass rubbed into the fetlock.

Tonight: another hosing, another dose of bute, and another chance to study how he’s moving when I put him in a spare stall for mucking.

Tomorrow: a morning vet check and perhaps recalibration of plans going forward, depending on how he’s doing.

The future: still uncertain, but looking a whole lot better than it did 24 hours ago.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Well, so much for that

You may recall that last spring I climbed aboard Ben for a ride, and climbed off in a funk that left me wondering whether I’d ever get on him again. Since then, I’ve ridden Commander a few times, but never worked up the courage to try my big beautiful Thoroughbred once more.

But I’ve been feeling mighty tempted lately. Last evening, in fact, I looked at the forecast for today – sunny, upper 70’s, light breezes – and thought, well, this might be a good day to give it a whirl. Certainly get on and walk around the ring. Try a trot, why not? If he booms forward, put him into a circle and keep him too occupied with my aids to get silly. If it goes well, well.... maybe even a short canter? Maybe?

Maybe? Worth a try, surely. Who knows? I went to bed on that thought.

And was yanked out of sleep at 6:00-ish a.m. with a call: “Your horse is three-legged lame.”

When I got to the barn I found Ben in the run-in, pointing his right hind toe and not wanting to move. Patiently, slowly, I got him hopping-hobbling up the driveway to his stall; soaked his presumably abscessed foot with the hot water I’d brought from home; and left him settled in with plenty of hay to go home and wait for the callback from the vet’s office on when they could come see him. No bute or Banamine till the vet has examined Ben.

An hour or so later I got a call: Ben’s pawing the barn down. Solution: bring Commander in to keep him company. A short time later: he’s still pawing the barn down. Must be pain, not absent-buddy angst. I called the vet’s and got approval to get some bute into him, fetched it, and went back to the barn to give Ben another soak and two grams of bute.

I found Ben lying down on his right side, which is where I administered the bute to him – well, whatever paste didn’t spew out with the hay quid he’d been holding, or smear along his face when he twisted his head away; but by golly he got at least two grams eventually. I was worried: Would Ben be able to get back to his feet, especially with the bad leg having to do a lot of the pushing? It was ugly, but he did it. Still toe-pointing. After a while the bute seemed to take hold and he began gingerly, occasionally easing the foot back toward flat, though never fully weight-bearing.

Ben let me pick his foot up and stick it into a bucket of hot water and Epsom salts, but as I did so I noticed that what had been barely discernable puffiness around his fetlock a few hours earlier was now frank edema from the joint up half a dozen inches on the back and sides of the cannon. Oh, crap. This isn’t looking like an abscess; this is looking like a tendon injury. I let the vet’s office know we had something potentially more serious facing us.

When the vet arrived she did several X- rays as well as palpating the area. Good news: No signs of a break in or near the joint. Bad news: Ben has “torqued his suspensory”. He’ll need to be on complete stall rest for at least five, probably ten or even more days; be on a regimen of bute; and apply a topical analgesic, Surpass, daily to the area (be sure to wear gloves!). Oh, and ice the area twice a day while I’m at it.

And, given how codependent he is with Commander, the mighty Morgan will have to join him in the barn to keep him calm, at least for the first several days. Great.

Oh, and the vet confirmed my fears that this injury most likely means the end of Ben’s riding career. Great. Not that I was planning anything strenuous for the future even if our ride today had gone well, but.... Crap.

At least, by the time I left the barn, Ben was feeling the combined effects of the bute and Surpass and was putting that right hind nearly or fully flat for encouraging amounts of time. Let's hope he recovers to paddock sound without difficulty.



Just back from settling the boys for the night and here’s what I found when I looked in on Ben:

He was standing hipshot, his left hind toe-cocked.

His left hind. HIS LEFT HIND. He was letting his injured right hind take the weight.

When he moved, he moved with almost normal freedom. He was quietly perky and happy. He’d devoured every scrap of hay, sucked down two full buckets of water, since I’d left them around 2:00, and he was looking for more, please!

Okay, yes, okay, he’s got a metric buttload of bute aboard, plus that insanely effective topical analgesic. And the edema is still present – firm and smooth, not particularly warm to the touch.

But still! What a world of difference from the pathetic hobbling creature of this morning.

I begin to nourish hope.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Commander is a Star

The mighty Morgan got to play kid’s pony last Saturday, and he rocked. The ring at the barn is unfenced and has lots of yummy tempting grass growing up through the crushed clamshell surface, so we did the ride in the fenced and grassless paddock behind the run-in. Given Faith's small stature and limited riding experience, it seemed safer to start with Commander being led by Faith’s mother, Roxanne.


That went just fine, so we moved to the longe line with me. Commander obviously knows all about longe lines and did his part like the good doobie he is.


So far so good; and finally Faith soloed. Commander was on his best behavior throughout, and carried his tiny burden with polite pride.


We did try a short trot on the lead line but it was quickly clear that Faith couldn’t handle Commander’s trot (quite a step up from a schoolie pony trot, I’d imagine), so after that we stuck to the walk.

Both Ben and Commander got groomed before the ride, and both boys inhaled the attention.


Even with a mounting block Faith could barely reach Ben's topline.


Commander was much easier for her; it's amazing, the difference a mere hand of height makes.


A good horse is a treasure; a good kid's horse is a pearl beyond price.



And so, today, Faith was back for more -- this time, not only with her mother in tow but with her older sister as well. Patrina is about two years older and maybe four, five inches taller, still a slender thing, like her little sister still more child than teenager. Patrina’s never ridden before except on pony-ride type little things, never been much interested in horses, but after the two girls had fun grooming Ben and Commander we saddled up the mighty Morgan and put Patrina up, with Faith leading them (and me walking with them till it was clear Commander would listen to Faith).

All three of them had a blast. The mighty Morgan led with unfailing politeness, Faith even got Commander to do some trotting, Patrina loved loved LOVED it all, and Commander was very proud of himself. By the time the older sister got off she was talking about starting riding lessons and definitely wants to come back to groom and ride again. Ha HA!! I do believe we’ve hooked another horse addict.

Then Faith mounted the long-suffering Morgan (Commander: “What? I thought we were done! Where’s my cookies? Oh, well, if you insist....”) and ambled about the paddock. She ventured a trot, I corrected her position and suggested she let the reins slip rather than using them to balance with, and by golly! She did a clearly better job of riding his trot today. And he clearly was more comfortable with her revised ride of his little jog (I know he can trot bigger than that, but it was just right for packing a kid in a small paddock). After some more walking and little jog-trots, it was time for them to go – but not until Commander (and Ben) got thank-you cookies plus hugs and kisses.

No, no photos; I didn’t have my camera along. Roxanne, the girls’ mother, took some of Patrina aboard with her phone but she’s not quite sure how to download them to her computer so I have no idea when I’ll ever get them. I’ll definitely bring the camera along next time, since there definitely will be another time -- likely a lot of other times.

Commander finished the visit visibly pleased with himself, and rightfully so. Both boys are really enjoying all this attention. It’s amusing, watching two small girls maneuvering the large Morgan and giant Thoroughbred around and the large/giant horses placidly complying. What a pearl beyond price a good horse is, huh? Can't say it enough -- Commander is a STAR.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Genesis of a Photographer

I love photography -- love to see it well done, love to try to do it well. At age 63 I'm getting reasonably good at it and continuing to learn to do it better. I'll never be in the same league as really gifted photographers, but I'm happy with the progress I've made.

How far back does the shutterbug go? Way, way back to my gawky awkward teens, when I found a battered old black and white camera in the attic. It was all manual, not a bit of auto this or that; there was a flaw in its innards that left streaks on the negatives and thus the images; I had to learn how to use a handheld light meter and dial in all the settings; but I persisted, and had fun.

Some time ago I was digging through some boxes on a dusty shelf and came across a collection of ancient photos. Among them were a handful of small prints from my first photographic forays. I looked through them, and.......

Well, by golly, the images weren't that bad. Not too shabby, at all. And the same sorts of things that intrigue me today -- the interplay of light and shadow, textures, geometric harmonies of the natural world, portraiture of our animal companions -- they were all there.

Like this, taken along the edge of the pond across the street from our house:


There was an old apple tree along that bit of shore, and I tried different angles on it:


You can clearly see the negative scratches across the tree trunk in this one:


I really like this one:


Light and dark, geometry, cats -- it was all there already, way back when:


Capturing the moment:


Capturing the soul: